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Sunday, January 25, 2009

Space Capsule Lands in West Tuckerton

I thought I had some pretty exciting news for you all, today. I was about to announce the discovery of a space capsule in neighboring West Tuckerton in front of the old Giffortown School House (See photo below) when I realized, upon further study and reflection, that I had been mistaken. Sorry about that!

The strange metallic object out front of the old Giffortown School House on Wisteria Road in West Tuckerton looks remarkably like the early space capsules that I remember seeing recovered on television in the 1960's. (September 14, 2008 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

Seems, that the old Giffordtown School House is the home of the Tuckerton Historical Society headquarters and museum. That piece of metal sitting out front is not some old space junk, but the base of the old radio tower that was erected on Hickory Island, in the meadows of the present day Mystic Islands, by the Germans in 1912 to communicate with a sister tower located in Eilvese, Germany. It was made in Germany, shipped to Tuckerton, and assembled on site. Many local men were hired to assist in the daunting task and the yearly maintenance that was required.

The base of the old radio tower sits out front of the Tuckerton Historical Societies' Giffordtown School House museum. (September 14, 2008 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

A closer look at the marble monument adjacent to the old radio tower base identifies the interesting artifact.

The marble monument identifies the strange looking configuration of iron. It reads . . . 

1912 - 1955

A walk around the radio base shows that it is laying on its side. A closer look reveals a rounded indentation formed to hold a ball. The tower sat on a large ceramic ball which insulated and protected it from lightning storms.

The tower base has been placed on its side, so that the round indentation that cradled the ceramic ball, upon which the tower sat, can be seen. (September 14, 2004 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

An 820 foot tower placed on a round ball is quite a balancing act. It was made possible by a series of metal cables attached to the tower and anchored to large blocks of concrete strategically placed around the tower. It was truly an engineering marvel of that time.

An old postcard shows the tower held erect by a series of metal cables. (Post card courtesy of the Tuckerton Historical Society.)

A large concrete block, used to anchor the Tuckerton wireless tower, still stands above the landscape on Staysail Drive. The two other larger blocks can be seen in a backyard on North Ensign Drive and the middle of South Ensign Drive. Smaller support blocks can been seen in the area, along roads, yards, and emerging out of neighboring lagoons. (May 15, 2005 photo by Pete Stemmer.)

It is rumored that the Tuckerton Wireless was used to send the message that ordered the German U-boat attack that sunk the Lusitania during World War I, but that remains unproven. When America entered the war, the Tuckerton Wireless was seized by the United States military and shut down. German personnel at the station became war prisoners and were replaced by U.S. Navy personnel. After the war, the facility was run by the RCA Corporation. The tower was dismantled in December, 1955.

Want to learn more about the Tuckerton Wireless? The Tuckerton Historical Society has a great collection of photos, artifacts, and models related to the Tuckerton Wireless Tower. You can visit their web site (see link below) or, better yet, visit the museum which is opened on Wednesday from 10 AM to 4 PM. I'm usually there every Wednesday from 11:30 AM until 3 PM. Hope to see you there!

To see a sample of the photos that are available for viewing at the Tuckerton Historical Society, go to the following web site . . .

I would appreciate hearing from anyone who can provide information regarding local residents who helped to build and maintain the Wireless Tower.

Pete S

PS- I want to thank Bruce Ellis for suggesting that the Blog feature the Tuckerton Wireless. Anyone who knows about, has heard about, or would like more information about an area oddity or attraction, please email the Blog. We will try to accommodate. We love to answer the question . . . "I wonder what that is?"

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